Some wear capes. Some wear armor. But only a few heroes can save the day in short pants! Welcome to Ten Things: Ten Golden Age Sidekicks!
Whooshman-Bicarbonate Films, in conjunction with An Amateur Comics Historian and BLAH, Presents:
TEN THINGS: TEN GOLDEN AGE SIDEKICKS!
10) THE JESTER
One of a pair of sidekicks to greeting-card-writer-turned-masked-vigilante The Vagabond Prince, there is something sinister and a little bit terrifying about The Jester. Not to be confused with Quality Comics’ hero of the same name, Falstaff never broke out of his Victorian fool character, even when his partners did. I’m apparently not the only one who found him off-putting, as the Vagabond Prince’s second (and final) appearance omits The Jester entirely, leaving only V.P.’s OTHER partner, Chief Justice.
I don’t like how he’s looking at me, Faithful Spoilerites.
Accounts vary as to whether or not this sidekick of The Silver Streak, debuting in 1941, is the same as his first sidekick, Mercury. If so, his real name is Mickey O’Toole, but Meteor is never called by that (or any other) civilian name. Both heroes have identical yellow costumes and super-speed powers, but Mercury was billed as “The Boy Streak”, while Meteor was dubbed “The Boy Speed-King.” With only eight combined appearances between them, nearly 8 decades gone, it’s probably a moot question at this point.
Orphaned by a group of crypto-fascists known as the Purple Shirts, Buddy Smith was adopted by Uncle Sam, a living embodiment of the spirit of America. (Well, The United States part of it, anyway.) Buddy served mostly as cheering section for Sam, who exhibited few limits to his amazing powers, and was his constant companion throughout World War II. His current whereabouts are unknown, and I can’t find any listing of him appearing since 1944, implying the possibility of a gruesome wartime fate for young Buddy.
After his criminal uncle threw him to what should have been certain death in order to steal the boy’s inheritance, Darrel Creig was saved by the hero 13, who offered him a spot as his partner. After bringing his corrupt uncle to justice, Jinx was seemingly adopted by the hero, and they lived together and punched crime in the face. Given that 13 seemed to have no day job or means of income, it’s possible that young Darrel’s family fortune paid their bills, putting slightly sinister overtones on 13’s perfectly timed arrival to save the boy’s life.
6) DYNAMIC BOY
The younger sibling and partner of Dynamic Man after his origin shift (originally a synthetic human, D-Man quickly became a gym teacher who gained powers from strange experiments, possibly because of Timely/Marvel’s Dynamic Man, who stayed a robot), Ricky McQuade was invulnerable, super-strong and able to leap/fly great distances. In the revamped world of Project Superpowers, both Ricky and big brother Bert are and always have been androids, but Golden Age Ricky was implicitly human.
One of a virtual army of kid heroes with no heroic alias (which I attribute to a misapprehension about Robin, Batman’s trusty pal, and how his Robin Hood-inspired alias is also a given name), Rusty was the partner of Flag-Man, and traveled with him throughout the Pacific theatre of WWII. Rusty made a little more than a dozen appearances circa 1941, and should not be confused with Marvel Comics’ Rusty, partner of The Defender, who is for all intents and purposes a palette swap of Captain America’s sidekick Bucky.
A change of pace from the various brothers, sons and wards of sidekickery, Bobby Stevens is actually the younger cousin of Kenneth “Airmale” Stevens. Stealing some of the “flying fluid” that empowered his cousin, Bobby forced his way into a partnership that the older hero never seemed entirely comfortable with. Aside from having one of the snappiest naming conventions of all time, Airmale and Stampy were unique in that their gravity belts didn’t GIVE them powers, but in fact negated them, allowing them to function in their secret identities without literally floating away.
I’m not 100% sure of this, but I think that Belle Wayne is the first female counterpart sidekick, predating even Hawkgirl’s 1941 debut. Girlfriend of Nick “The Owl” Terry, Belle is a gossip columnist by day, and uses her connections and the same gadgets as The Owl to support him in punching crime. Given that she appeared in February of 1941, and Fantomah (who is generally credited as the first female superhero ever) debuted in February of the previous year, I’m going to crown her First Lady Sidekick/Female Counterpart, with all the powers and responsibilities thereof. It is written! HUZZAH!
Terry Wake is part of a long and celebrated line of kids who just decided to put on tights one day and miraculously did NOT die fighting crime. Given his initial grim reaper theme (all the better to compliment Nightmare’s initial look as a skeletal spectre), he probably got by on fear, at least for a while, especially since their uniforms had special phosphorous inserts to give them an eerie glow. Nightmare later upgraded to a more traditional super-suit, with Sleepy bravely wearing white tights with a stylized eagle glyph, for some reason.
1) BURMA BOY
Rescued from life as a prisoner of war by the mysterious Green Turtle, this unnamed Chinese lad gets his name from the Burma Road (a path through mountainous territory that linked China with the then-British colony of Burma, now known as Myanmar), where he lost his father. He assisted The Green Turtle in his five recorded adventures, which makes him the first CONFIRMED Chinese superhero, since the Green Turtle’s creator, Chu Hing, wasn’t allowed to make the hero identifiably Asian. (Of course, Chu also went to great lengths to obscure the hero’s face from readers, hiding the fact that he meant for his hero to be Asian American.)
Basically, what I’m saying is, anything Green Turtle-related is pretty fascinating.
Thanks to @CalamityJon inspiring this week’s topic! Feel free to follow along @MightyKingCobra on Twitter to suggest your own topic for Ten Things madnes sor check out the full archive here! As with any set of like items, these aren’t meant to be hard and fast or absolutely complete, if only because nearly every hero of the 40s and 50s had some sort of cute kid/animal/robot partner. Either way, the comments section is below for just such an emergency, but, as always: Please, no wagering!